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Researchers identify new subgroup of pancreatic cancer patients who may benefit from personalised therapy

2 March 2015

Around 15 per cent of pancreatic cancer patients may benefit from therapy which targets a newly identified gene signature, according to research from Indiana University, USA.

Around 15 per cent of pancreatic cancer patients may benefit from therapy which targets a newly identified gene signature, according to research from Indiana University, USA.

The research team, led by Dr Murray Korc, the Myles Brand Professor of Cancer Research at the University’s School of Medicine, found that a sub group of patients had an ‘angiogenic gene signature’ – a distinctive set of genetic instructions which enabled abnormal blood cells to form inside tumours, which feed the tumour’s growth. The prevalence of this signature had not been known previously.

The team believes that those patients who possess this signature could benefit from personalised therapies that cut off the pathways that feed the cancer’s growth.

The study, published in the journal Oncotarget, also reported for the first time that the main type of cell found in the inside lining of blood vessels - endothelial cells - can produce molecules that directly stimulate the growth of pancreatic cancer cells.

"We showed that … by silencing or inhibiting certain pathways, we can alter that effect," Dr Korc said. "We demonstrated that it is possible to target these pathways and prolong the survival of genetically modified mice whose pancreatic cancers also have a strong pro-angiogenic gene signature."

Whilst further studies will need to be done to confirm these approaches, the study suggests that people with a strong pro-angiogenic gene signature may benefit from targeted therapy that is directed at one of these pathways.

The researchers used data from the Cancer Genome Atlas, a project to catalogue genetic mutations responsible for cancer, funded by the US government and overseen by the US National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute. 

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